(Okay, Blogger is doing weird things. If any of the words are run together it’s the machine’s fault and is not reflective of the intelligence of the interviewer or the interviewee. Well it could be reflective of the intelligence of the interviewer, but I’m not going to admit that.)
Name: Mark P Tjan
Location: Toronto area, Canada
Occupation: Professional illustratorworking in the technical field. Graduating in April.
Q: What was the first anime you watched? When did you start watching anime? And how were you introduced to it?
A: I probably can’t remember at this point. I come from a mixed background that includes Japanese, so I’ve been exposed to things I didn’t know were “anime” throughout my childhood. I suppose the first time I realised something was anime was at my local Blockbuster back when I was 13, and they had subtitled copies of the original Guyver OVA, Genesis Survivor Gaiarth, and Doomed Megalopolis, amongst others. Gaiarth was really the one that hooked me, and I’ve looked back fondly on it ever since.
Q: I’ve noticed quite a range of shows discussed on your blog, anything from Lucky Star to Gundam 0083. Is there a particular genreyou gravitate to? What type of shows do you enjoy? Is there any show you’d be embarrassed to admit that you like?
A: I’m not much of a genre guy, to be honest. In this day and age I seeeverything becoming more and more meta and cross-pollinated. Even backin the day though, I think genres have always made us less aware of what something is. Take for instance Gundam 0083. Sure the predominant feature is mecha, but it’s also a political story, a drama (both romantic and wartime), and has its funny moments. If we look at Zeta Gundam, it’s actually easier to classify that as a drama-tragedy than a big mecha show. So for me, genre is irrelevant. I tend to see it asa marketing ploy that we’ve all become too comfortable with and need to wake up and escape.
Shows I’m embarrassed at liking? Not many. I’m very straightforwardabout things. Some people have a guilty pleasure like Dragonball Z,but I’m usually quite pig-headed and forward about my opinion of such things (it sucks!). I guess if I had to pick one, it’s probably Love Hina. As long as you take away the Spring Break special and the”Again” episodes, Lova Hina was a product I really enjoyed, but don’t always feel justified in doing so. It is really heavy on the gags and it’s not particularly well-written, but it’s fun damnit. It’s one series I can just throw my cares out the window about and watch for the hijinks.
Q: And do people really pretend that FF VII wasn’t their first RPG? (I just read a rather old post).
A: Ahahaha, see, now you’ve asked me a loaded question! If I say it wasn’t, I’ll probably be called a liar. I think a lot of people do though. It’s embarrassing for some folks to be part of the mainstream. I personally have no problem with mainstream products, I think it’s really childish to be such a hater. I mean, I talk about maturity and such all the time, and I think a part of being taken seriously is accepting that you do like mainstream things and just going with it.If some hater comes up to you, just go “so? Whatever” and leave him or her alone. FFVII wasn’t my first RPG, I was into them long beforethat. I think my first was probably Secret of Evermore or one of the early Japan-only Fire Emblems (my uncle gave me a copy he’d sawed the extra pieces out of so I could play it on a regular SNES).
Q: I notice that you talk about fandom quite a bit. How long have you been part of fandom? I’ve also noticed that you talked about the convention circuit. How many conventions do you go to and what do you cosplay as? What do you like about fandom what do you dislike about fandom?
A: “Fandom” is hard to define. Online I’ve been part of the fandom since probably 1997-1998, possibly a year or so earlier depending on when it was that I got the internet for the first time. Back in the days of 56kbps! Wow, I feel slightly old now. I went to a pretty sports-oriented high school so not many people gave a crap about anime or anything. Except for two kids who I used to hang around with, both Asian and really into Gundam. It was always fairly validating to think that someone else out there knew what I was talking about. I’d seen0080/0083 by then. My local friends were more into video games (I was the guy with the PSX and Saturn back then), so that also wound up leading to anime fandom. Golden Boy was a big OVA for us. Big.
For conventions, I started back in 2001 with Anime North. I’d been to a comic book convention once before, but it was pretty dull so I didn’t really think much of it. A friend on a chatroom I used to frequent told me about AN and said she was going, so I figured I’d drop by and meet her. In the end she and I lost track of each other, but I kept going! I also went to CN Anime (a portion of FanExpo) that year as well. 2002 was the year everything exploded for me though. I met someone who introduced me to her cosplay group and told me about performing in the masquerade. It sounded like fun so I joined in, and the group’s been together ever since. We recently dissolved the old name and united with another sister group of ours to form the Ontario Anime Society.
I tend to hit up quite a few conventions. Not as may as some, butenough to satisfy me. Anime North and FanExpo here in Toronto, AnimeBoston down in Massachusetts, Otakon in Baltimore, Otakuthon in Montreal (come see me! I’m a guest this year!), and I’ve been to a few others. I don’t like overdoing it because then I feel worn out. Plus I’m broke after all that! I tend to cosplay as whomever I see fit. I’m not really that versatile as a cosplayer, so I stick to “safe”costumes. Recently my role has been organising things for the OAS,which means I have less time. I’ve done things like Miroku from Inu-Yasha, Jiraiya from Naruto, and Shigure from Fruits Basket. This year I might be doing someone from Macross F, probably Ozma since I have a chinstrap beard now.
Wow this is a big question… Uh. What do I not like about fandom? That’s a very broad spectrum. I don’t like “cultural idiocy” as I put it on my own blog. I think a lot of people get overexcited about mundane things and treat them as special (ie: the Japanese language orany non-English words period). I mean, I understand it. Been there, done that. But as a community I think the fandom needs to move forward. I’m also very against the sexualising of everything. Yaoi, yuri, general hentai… I think there’s too much now. Way too much. I know I’ll probably get a few angry e-mails about that, but my point is that I don’t really like the oversexualising we do. I think it’s unnecessary and immature. But hey, that’s me. At the very least, I’d prefer people kept it to themselves. Heaven knows I don’t need anymore fangirls waving yaoi doujins in my face.
Other than that, I also don’t like the unethical downloading offansubs. I don’t think fans realise they’re hurting their own industry, and that needs to be made clear. I’m a DVD buyer, but I realise companies need to respond to that situation too and make things available online for cheap. There are ways to solve all this,but it has to start with us. Write letters to companies asking for digital distribution options. Tell your friends to stop downloading or watching on YouTube when a series has been licensed, etc. It starts with us.
Q: If you had to pick a top five favorite anime, what would they be?
A: That’s easy. Macross Plus, Twelve Kingdoms, Genshiken, Genesis Survivor Gaiarth, and Princess Mononoke.
Q: Is there anything about you that you think would surprise your readers?
A: I’m not white? Hahah, no, but all joking aside… I don’t really think so. I’m pretty clear in who I am in my writing, so I don’t feel the need to hide much. I suppose if anything, that I have a very strong spiritual side and that I’m a Theosophist (think Buddhist-Hindu-etc sort of thing, but not in a hokey way). To me, my spiritual life is the most important aspect of my existence. It’s where I find a lot of my ethical grounding and where I begin to base my opinions.
Q: So I’m curious is “That’s not Kanon” a statement like “Hey, you aren’t talking about Kanon.” or is it an accusation like “That’s not Kanon!” or is it a play on the word Canon?
A: A play on the phrase “that’s not canon”, really. I thought it was kindof cute. I never meant to keep it or continue writing the blog (most such experiments have ended in failure), but somehow I just kept going. Glad I did!
Q: I noticed that your blog started as a cooperative effort and then it became just you posting. I’m a little curious what happened there?And more generally how did you get into blogging?
A: Actually, it still is a cooperative effort. Shooichi is my co-authorand he posts every so often. He’s less motivated I suppose? But he always comes out with something quality when he does put in a word. If anything, he’s much, much funnier than I am. I’ve always appreciated that.
I got into blogging largely as an experiment. I had started reading blogs on BlogSuki (we miss you), and then followed it up with AnimeNano (we love you!). I figured I wanted to try my hand at it, so I did. A couple of months in, Owen from Cruel Angel Theses linked me and it’s been an uphill jog ever since.
Q: If you had to classify your blog as a “type” what type would that be? What types of blogs do you enjoy reading? What types of blogs doyou not enjoy?
A: Probably subcultural anthropology or some convoluted name like that. I’m across the spectrum really, because I prefer social commentary over reviews but still do the latter anyway. I enjoy reading blogs that give me an opinion on something. The End of the World blog is really good for that, as is Cruel Angel Theses and Mistakes of Youth (though wildarmsheero sometimes scares me with all the body pillows). I feel blogs that just do giant image posts or recap episodes are a waste of time. I mean, why bother? No one wants the spoilers if they haven’t seen it anyway, and if they have, what’s the point of a recap? And while images are all good and fine, we’ve got Danbooru and 4chanfor that. Open a gallery instead!
Q: On a side note, it almost seems like there’s two types of posts I’ve seen – the angry rant and the longer argumentative one – whichone do you prefer writing more?
A: I tend to write both at once. I suppose the angry rant is easier and it provides more immediate rewards (visitor rates jump for drama), but the argument — if well thought out — is that much better in the long run. It gives people a lot more to talk about in an intelligent manner, rather than just squawking like a duck that was kicked in the sphincter. It’s important that communication be emotional, but not out of control. The same goes for the intellectual component. Too often people can justify anything, and if you can’t feel what right and wrong is in a moment, I don’t think you can establish much of a moral compass about anything. I’ve found that I tend to do the latter and then write it all out because of frustration, but then it’s just an angry rant disguising itself as something intelligent. It’s one of those pitfalls we need to avoid.
Q: If you had to pick three posts that you think are your best what would they be?
A: Hm… Probably the first that comes to mind is “Claymore and the Samurai” (http://tnk.hidoshi.com/?p=580). It’s a bit of a culturalanthropology study I did and while short, frames everything nicely. I might return to it one day in more depth. Then there’s “My Life and Macross Plus” (http://tnk.hidoshi.com/?p=559) which was mostly a small biography of my relationship with Shoji Kawamori’s best work. Lastly,and perhaps most importantly, “Considering the Whole When Reviewing”(http://tnk.hidoshi.com/?p=555) is something I feel every blogger should probably glance at. Hemingway taught us that “writing is re-writing”, and I think a similar concept needs to be applied to reviews. I’m guilty of betraying this concept a lot, but I still try to keep it in the back of my head. You have to get away from the material before you can really review it, otherwise the entire affair can be doctored by excitement, either positive or negative. That skews your opinions and makes your review ineffectual. We could probably phrase it as “reviewing is re-viewing”, to be perfectly succinct.
Q: Any closing thoughts?
A: I’d like to thank you for your time and this opportunity for an interview. I think site-to-site blogging and conversations are very important so that we can all share in ideas more often, even if we disagree. I hope everyone enjoys my blog (even if you dislike what I’m saying), and please feel free to call me on it. I’ll always respond.
Blog in Review: This is Kanon
A while back I started a blog post (that I’ll finish one day) trying to lump various blogs into rock music types. Mostly because I like music and I like blogs and of course there has to be a way to combine the two into some sort of cohesive whole.
Now granted, that kind of fell apart, but “That’s not Kanon.” still reminds me of NOFX. Occasionally loud, usually angry, but always with an interesting point. Overall, the blog touches on a little bit of everything, and a whole lot about fandom and the people in it. It takes stabs at cosplay, the entire nipponphile culture and commercialism at conventions. In a lot of ways, it is an examination of the people surrounding anime than the shows itself. And that’s not a bad thing.
To be fair, I have to divide Hidoshi’s posts into two categories – the quick and dirty rant and the longer argumentative essay. Now the quick and dirty rants are generally more accessible. First of all, he has a great voice in these posts. It flows naturally and I don’t find myself having to go back and re-read what he said earlier to see if I missed something. They aren’t so long that I find myself skimming through to see what was said later. And to be honest, his points are cutting, insightful and very opinionated. All of which are good for a blog. Really, I could pick out one or two, but his most recent posts all have these same qualities.
On the other hand, his longer argumentative essay posts tend to be a bit dense – both in subject matter and in language. Now I don’t want to say that it’s a bad thing (because honestly, I don’t want to be the guy to say, “Make it more stupid, so I can understand it.”) But I think sometimes it does hurt his point. For instance, his post “On Being Filled with Stereotypes” is a really interesting examination of how some people relate to characters. But when I hit the line, “The disinterested variant will pay the original character more courtesy and only siphon a portion of the experience, without wearing the comparisons too blatantly. In my own experience, I’ve had this done with Genshiken. We pick and choose and pick and choose, but because none of the characters are outstanding winners or losers in the series, it doesn’t goad anyone to say “such and such is me” with any affronting certainty,” I had to stop and reread it. And then stop and reread it again before I got what he was saying.
Now in all fairness, this is I’m guilty of as well. And I don’t think that it’s necessarily bad to be smart. But in all honesty, the voice that makes the angry rants fun to read is lost right here.
And I do have to make a note about Shoochi’s posts, which are much less frequent and no less enjoyable. Again most of his commentary seems to be aimed at exploring the fan element of fandom rather than anime itself. Although Shooichi’s funny posts do tend to be funnier than Hidoshi. Hidoshi handles the angry rant better.
They also do talk about anime at least somewhat. Although, I tend to think that those posts aren’t necessarily the ones that draw me to read the blog. They also don’t drive me away from it. I tend to be pretty indifferent to them.
That’s Not Kanon is easily the one of the prettiest blogs I’ve ever read. From the banner to the layout, it’s very easy on the eyes. (I’m not surprised to learn that Hidoshi works in illustration). Some of the things I want to highlight would be the combination of sections, a chronological listing and a category listing so that you can search the posts three different ways.
And while I think the banner and design are deceptively flowery, considering the nature of the blog, it is a really great layout. To be fair, I’m kind of jealous.
I don’t even have any problems with the pictures he uses. Even if they aren’t astounding, he definitely uses them well and I don’t have any problems scrolling through them. And to be honest, he rarely uses pictures anyway.
One of the things I did want to point out about the layout of the page is that the font seems a bit on the smaller side. While still readable, it makes the posts feel shorter than they might actually be. And when you combine that with Hidoshi’s usual voice it makes for a good read that feels quicker than it might actually be.
Oh yeah, and I have to mention the poll, which is neat as well.
In all honesty, it’s hard not to recommend That’s Not Kanon. When it’s rocking, it’s really rocking. When it’s not rocking, well it still plays a pretty interesting tune. There isn’t anybody who wouldn’t have an opinion on the subjects that Hidoshi or Shooichi brings up. Well unless you’re not interested in fandom. Or are way too sensitive about the subject.